Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves


SLICE OF CHERRY is a YA publication from 2011, and even though this book was released while I was on Goodreads, I hadn't actually heard of it or this author before listening to a Teen Creeps podcast episode about the author's other book, BLEEDING VIOLET. In some ways, this book is a product of its time. It reminds me of the gothic nlog-centered stories that I used to see on Quizilla in the early 2000s. There's something very Tim Burton-esque about this story, but without the humanistic whimsy that made Tim Burton more fantasy than horror. It's like someone curated one of those emo girl Xanga pages with the razorblade and fallen angel aesthetics and decided to make a portal fantasy out of it. Which means that it ends up feeling very precocious for a teen novel and not always in a good way. There are passages in this book that are incredibly triggering, even for an adult reader.

I don't want to say too much about this book because spoilers, but basically, Fancy and Kit are two sisters who live in a town in Texas called Portero. Portero is the land equivalent of a piece of Swiss cheese except instead of being filled with air, its holes lead to other worlds and inhuman monsters, which are sort of guarded against by a roving magical police force called Mortmains. I am literally so jealous of this concept and wish that I'd thought of it. Points for imagination. Fancy and Kit are also the daughters of a serial killer called the Bonesaw Killer who murdered all of his victims in their basement. But lest you feel too sorry for them, the psycho gene runs strong in these two and they are more than eager to carry on their father's work, "unzipping" old perverts and torturing a would-be prowler in the cellar.

At some point, one of them realizes that she has the ability to go to this other world that she calls "the happy place" which is basically one of these Swiss cheese portals. Except in this world, she's basically a god. The other sister thinks that they ought to do public works for the greater good. And these two conflicting desires end up fusing rather gruesomely with their bloodlust: they decide that they will take people to the happy place to torture and murder BUT ONLY IF THEY DESERVE IT. There, random act of kindness done. Send these two the Nobel Peace Prize already.

The murders are pretty violent and often ironic. It's like a more graphic revenge story in the vein of Jigoku Shoujo where you're introduced to some horrific abusers and would-be murderers who end up getting a bloody serving of rough justice. Child abuse (sexual and physical) are themes in this book, and there are graphic descriptions of gore. Someone is called the F-slur for gay people at one point. Also, people who aren't from Portero are called "transies" which was mentioned in the Teen Creeps podcast and which I thought was a transphobic slur but it's actually apparently an in-town slur for people who are tourists and I think it's short for "transients" but that's never gonna catch on like muggles or mundanes, bestie.

Ultimately, the story was SO WEIRD that I almost couldn't help but like it. I could tell the author had a lot of fun writing it and the idea of two Black heroines getting to be so unapologetically bad while also being themselves in this twisty fantasy world where they had total control was honestly refreshing and unique. And again-- I had major jealousy over the setting she created because it was so fucking cool. I just wish it had been fleshed out more. You know a book needs more time on the editing book when you read 500+ pages of it and get to the end and think, "But I still don't really know how any of this works and also none of this gives me closure." Like, the ending was pretty unsatisfying and I don't think there was ever a concrete explanation for how the portals worked or what the Mortmains did, or how people became Mortmains or what the townspeople did to protect themselves from monsters. This is what happens when you get a story that's all vibes and very little payoff. It can work and here I think it actually did, but how do you market it? To WHOM do you market it? 

That said, I'm kind of itching to read the companion book lol.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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